Personnel management is a field of management that involves using workers’ skills effectively and making their jobs rewarding. Nearly all large businesses and other organizations have a department responsible for personnel management. The field is also called employee relations or human resources management. In organizations that have many employees who belong to a union, personnel management is often known as industrial relations or labor relations. Its chief function in such a company is to represent the firm in contract talks and other dealings with the union.
Specialists in personnel management have a wide range of responsibilities. They interview, test, and recommend applicants to fill job openings. They organize recruiting campaigns and travel to high schools and colleges to search for promising applicants. These managers develop pay scales, systems for evaluating employee performance, and training programs to teach workers and managers new skills. They administer employee benefits, such as health insurance, life insurance, and pensions. They offer counseling to help employees solve personal or work-related problems. Personnel managers may also supervise affirmative-action plans, including special recruiting and training programs for women and minority groups (see Affirmative action).
Development of personnel management. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, personnel management was a simple activity that involved little more than hiring employees. Hiring was easy in the United States because many immigrants were competing for jobs.
Personnel management grew in complexity and importance during the mid-1900’s. People began to recognize that worker morale affects productivity and that most workers need more than reasonable wages to be happy in their job. For example, employees also require recognition, a feeling of achievement, and an opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their work. Personnel managers helped meet these needs by such means as company newsletters, recreation programs, and suggestion systems. Labor unions became more powerful, and the field of industrial relations expanded greatly. The Social Security Act of 1935 also created additional responsibilities for personnel managers, who supervised the retirement and unemployment benefits established by the act.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, many new federal laws directly affected the relationship between an organization and its employees. These laws included the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Organizations relied heavily on personnel managers to help them follow federal regulations regarding minority hiring, pensions, worker safety, and other matters.
Careers in personnel management. Many colleges and universities offer courses in personnel management. Students who desire a career in this field should also study such subjects as accounting, computer science, law, marketing, and psychology. The Society for Human Resource Management, a professional association for personnel managers in the United States and abroad, sets professional standards.
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